Thursday, March 20, 2008

War Inc.

Conservatives like to espouse the virtues of the free market. In doing so, they like to talk about “incentives.” In the conservative worldview, everything people do is motivated (“incentivized”) by some personal gain. People, and companies, do everything they do — and don’t do what they don’t do — based on what’s in their own best interest. One Kool-Aid drinking friend of mine, a very smart person, once followed this logic right off a cliff when, during a discussion of taxation, argued against higher taxes for the wealthy because it would “create a disincentive to become rich.” (I won’t tell you what I said in response. You can judge that statement for yourself.)

Incentives also keep companies behaving as responsible citizens. After all, bad practices such as inattention to quality and product safety are prevented by competition, right? If Company A suddenly starts producing an inferior product, customers will take their business to Company B. If Company C injures customers with shoddy workmanship or cheaper but dangerous components, customers will run to company D.

So when company KBR kills people because it cut corners, company KBR is on the express train to out of business and probably will see the inside of a courtroom before too long, right? But what if company KBR is the recipient of a no-bid government contract? Where’s the competition that’s supposed to keep costs down, and where’s the incentive not to cut corners in vital areas such as safety?

What these fucking idiot conservative shitheads fail to mention is that money is a pretty powerful fucking incentive. If a company can cut a few corners and save a few bucks with little or no risk to its bottom line, what the fuck is stopping it? After all, the company would be acting in its own best interest, the only way it can possibly act in the conservative worldview. And if it’s a public company, it has not just an incentive, but a responsibility to its shareholders to save every dime it can. And if that means cutting a few corners when running some electrical wires, fine.

Unfortunately, Ryan Maseth wasn’t essential to KBR’s bottom line. And he’s only one of at least a dozen other U.S. servicemembers whose lives did not have a material impact on the financial results of the company BushCo hired to help administer its war.

In other words, there was no “incentive” for KBR to keep them from being electrocuted.

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